My First Gen Con

Although I’ve grown up in Indianapolis, this weekend was my first Gen Con. There always seemed to be something going on Gen Con weekend, or I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. The stars finally aligned this year and I was finally able to make it to the convention for the “best four days in gaming.”

Day One

DrunkQuest booth at Gen Con

The DrunkQuest booth.

In my Gen Con preparations I made a list of games I wanted to play, events to attend, and workshops to participate in. In other words, I was planning on doing all the things. But that all went through the door when I entered the expo hall for the first time. It reminded me of my first trip to Vegas. Everything was busy, bright, and wholly overwhelming. Everywhere I looked there was something new. I was really glad I hadn’t pre-purchased too many event tickets. I would have felt even more stressed out if I had to try to keep on a schedule.

I spent the majority of the first day of Gen Con walking around the expo hall. I picked up DrunkQuest, a game similar to Munchkin but with drinking (look for a review down the line). And went over to the gaming hall to do the “How to Play Magic” session. I haven’t played Magic since I was in highschool so I needed a refresher. I remembered how much I enjoy playing card games in general, and picked up a box of 1000 cards by the end of the weekend. I also checked out the SPA (Spousal Activities) section and made a ring for free!

By the time Claire stopped by after work, I was completely worn out. We headed out to the food trucks to grab a bite to eat. The lines were long at all the trucks, but everyone was incredibly friendly. We ate and then headed over to see “Firefly Drinking Songs.” The performers were talented, but it was not what we expected. We were expecting more of a folksy type of thing, but these were done in the manner of traditional Irish drinking songs.

Day Two

Claire dressed as Katniss at Gen Con.

Katniss had some sponsors drop her a chocolate cupcake.

Claire (I mean Katniss) had Friday off so we arrived at the convention center at around 11:00am. We began our day in the Expo hall, but realized we needed a plan. So we pulled out our Gen Con coupon books and pulled out the coupons for the free items and set out on our quest. One thing that could really be improved at Gen Con is booth number location. We would be looking for a certain booth, and would have no idea if we were in the right part of the aisle. Some booths had their numbers clearly marked by the booth name, and some we couldn’t find at all. We also tracked down Jeph Jacques to get an autographed Questionable Content book.

The crowd around the food trucks was even bigger on Friday than it was on Thursday. In lieu of an actual lunch we had cupcakes from The Flying Cupcake, because we are grownups. Claire had the “Doctor’s Companion” (chocolate and caramel) and I had the “Zombie Bride” (almond). They were both amazing.

Day Three

Claire and her fiance had the Geekling for day three of Gen Con, so after hanging out with them for a bit I headed out on my own. I attended a resume review workshop ($6 for a review? That usually costs a ton of cash!). And went by the Doubleclicks concert. The show was amazing, I’ll have a separate post about the show later this week but if you get the chance to see them definitely take it.

I checked out some new games, I’m particularly interested in picking up a copy of App’d in the near future. App’d is a game where you are trying to fill your head with apps without going over the 1TB limit. It was a simple game, but it was fun. Unfortunately by the time I got to playing it, I had gone through my budget for the weekend.

Photo with Wil Wheaton's cutout at Gen Con

The photo Wil Wheaton took OF us (with his cardboard cutout).

I met up with my derby wife (even though we’re both retired she is still very much my derby wife) and a few other derby friends. One of whom had the brilliant idea to ask Wil Wheaton to take a picture OF us. See, this year Wil Wheaton was trying to attend Gen Con as a “normal person” so he wasn’t taking pictures with fans. So we approached him and said we were trying to experience Gen Con like Wil Wheaton and asked him to take our picture. He was really cool about it and took our picture. It was awesome.

Day Four

The Ram made their menu Gen Con themed.

The Ram made their menu Gen Con themed.

The final day of Gen Con I actually was able to get my non-geek husband to go! He was so swept up in the atmosphere he started talking hotels and costumes for next year (here’s to hoping that lasts). We went to lunch at the Ram and they had Evil Dead II playing on the big screen and he decided he really likes campy B-rated horror films. He even bought his own dice! (We may have an Invasion of the Body Snatchers situation going on so keep your eyes open.

This was also the only day I was walking around booths with a guy. He had an interesting observation: “It’s funny, I know nothing about gaming but every time you ask a question they answer to me.” Now, so I retain my faith in the gaming community I’m going to pretend this was a subconscious decision. But seriously guys 1) don’t assume the boy is the gamer and 2) if someone asks a question answer the person who asked the question. It’s just polite.

What I’d Do Differently

Gaming at Gen Con.

Gaming at Gen Con.

I’ll be more prepared next year. I now have a better idea of things going on around the convention, and will have a game plan when I go in. There are a few things I’ll want to make sure to do next year.

  • Play Testing – There was a whole room full of games to playtest that I didn’t go into, I need to make sure to hit these next year.
  • Actual Gaming – Confession: I was a bit intimidated to jump into a game. I was worried I’d mess up, or that I’d be in the way. This was a silly way to think. When I did jump into games everyone was nothing but awesome.
  • Talk to More Game Designers – This one’s a bit meta, but I didn’t talk to any game designers this year. Next year I’ll make sure to talk to them and get coverage for all of you. Again, I was intimidated because I’m really new to tabletop gaming.

Tips for Your First Gen Con

The weekend is still a bit of a blur, but in the best possible way. Gen Con is huge and there’s so much going on that it becomes overwhelming. But I’m already looking forward to next year. Here would be the big things I brought away for someone planning on attending Gen Con for the first time.

  • Wand Making, one of several activities at Gen Con.

    Wand Making, one of several activities at Gen Con.

    Don’t Schedule Too Much – As I said, I had originally planned to do all the things. But that went out the window pretty quickly when I first got there. I was glad I hadn’t purchased tickets.

  • Don’t Stock Up on Generics Immediately – I was planning on buying a handful of generics to play some games with, but I found if you just wanted to play a few hands to get the feel of the game you really didn’t have to. The creators were more than happy to let you see what the game was all about without a ticket.
  • Look to Learn If like me you are fairly new to tabletop gaming, look for learning events (like the Magic one I did) or just ask about how to play. I got to learn about several games just by asking about them.
  • Hydrate – You’re walking around all day for four days straight. Get some water in your system (no, coffee and energy drinks don’t count).

Gen Con Reflections

The TARDIS door at Noodles and Company.

The TARDIS door at Noodles and Company.

Overall, I had a great time at Gen Con. People were polite and awesome. If there were lines, I knew where to go. They were organized. I also realized that conventions that have lots of scheduled events like Gen Con are more my speed than the general fan convention without scheduled things to do. I like having the option for some structure. Also, in general I think gaming is more my thing than comic books so that may be part of it as well. I’ve really enjoyed both gaming conventions I’ve been to this year (Louisville Arcade Expo being the other). Claire on the other hand loves just general walk around and see what’s up cons.

I’ve also gained a greater appreciation for how Indy does conventions. The downtown area embraced Gen Con with decorations, special menus, and festivities. This is just good business. Geeks tend to spend money at these things, and setting yourself apart will help to ensure they spend money with you. Plus, Indianapolis is just laid out well. Everything is close and walkable, and the improvements from having the Super Bowl have just enhanced that. I understand now why it seems like there is always something in the convention center.

Make sure to check out our Storify story for a real-time rehash of our experience, and our Facebook and Flickr for more photos!

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